Why You Should Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Car


People who live in flood-prone areas, or in areas that have recently undergone a flood, must be cautious when shopping for a vehicle. Some unscrupulous dealers or sellers might try to pass off a flood-damaged car to you. You might know someone who has bragged about their purchase of a flood-damaged vehicle. Maybe they tell you, “It’s such a good deal, all of the damage has been repaired, and I’ve saved so much money on buying a vehicle by purchasing it flood-damaged.” What they don’t realize, however, is that not all flood damage can be seen, nor can it all be repaired. Here are some reasons why you should avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle.

Think About What Happens in a Flood

During a flood, vehicles are engulfed by dirty water. This can cause many types of damage to the car. This water has likely seeped into the car’s carpet, seats, engine, brakes, fuel tank and lines, and electronics. Rain water or river water is bad enough, but if the flood if from sea water, that’s even worse. Salt water will corrode the car and contribute to its long-term destruction.

What Does Flood Water Do to a Car?

The car’s carpet and upholstery was likely sitting in stagnant water for a while before being rescued, creating mildew. Car parts that require lubrication were worn from flood water. The engine was flooded and locked, requiring a rebuilding or replacement. The brake fluid absorbed moisture, rendering it useless.

Water, and salt water in particular, also causes corrosion of the vehicle. It will cause screws to rust, corrode circuit boards, and rust the body of the car. The car’s electrical components will fail to work. It can also get into the car’s airbag system, causing airbags that can go off without any warning.

How Can I Tell If a Car is Flood-Damaged?

If you are shopping for a vehicle in an area in which you know a flood has occurred, be mindful of this. Floods can happen anywhere, however, so you should always be on the lookout for sellers trying to pass off flood-damaged cars as pristine. Some things that you can do to avoid this are:

  • Get the car professionally inspected. Trusted Sale encourages vehicle inspections prior to the sale. If the seller doesn’t provide an inspection, take the vehicle to a mechanic you trust. He or she should be able to easily spot signs of flood damage throughout the car.

  • Trust your senses. Your own eyes and nose should give you a hint if a car has been damaged by a flood. Things to look for include:

o   If you smell a musty odor, or notice that the car’s interior has been way too air-freshened in an attempt to cover up the smell.

o   Can you tell if the carpet or seats have been removed? Again, this is a dead giveaway that flood damage has occurred.

o   Look in the corners of the car’s trunk and doors, as well as under the hood. If you notice dirt, rust or corrosion that seems excessive for the vehicle’s age and condition, suspect flood water as the cause.

o   You might also notice water lines in the lenses or reflectors of the car’s lights.

o   If the drain plugs underneath the car look as if they’ve been removed, this is another sign of potential flood damage.

  • Get a vehicle history report. Vehicles are “supposed” to be reported for flood damage on a vehicle history report. Don’t trust the extremely cheap or free report companies to accurately report this, however. Carfax is a good, trusted company to use, and offers a free flood damage check along with its paid vehicle history reports. There are some telltale signs to look for on the report if you suspect flood damage but it’s not listed. Notice the addresses where the vehicle has been registered in the past. Are these areas that you know are prone to or were affected by a flood? Shameless plug: Trusted Sale automatically pulls the vehicle history report for you so that you know exactly what you are buying!

With a bit of vigilance and common sense, you can avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a vehicle that has been damaged by flood waters.